The Upside-Down Back-To-Front House – Rozelle House – by Carterwilliamson Architects

The Upside-Down Back-To-Front House – Rozelle House – by Carterwilliamson Architects

Architects: Carterwilliamson Architects
Photography: Castle + Beatty, Archishot
Location: Sydney, Australia

Rozelle House is affectionately known in the Carterwilliamson Architects studio as ‘The Upside-Down Back-To-Front House’, named for the unconventional planning which allows it to negotiate the constraints of a tight, steep site.

The site of this 1880s workers terrace falls two stories from Hartley Street down to Starling Street at the rear. The clients always entered their home from Starling Street to arrive more easily into the living spaces and afford more privacy to the upstairs bedrooms. Carterwilliamson Architects formalised these existing use patterns, flipping the entry, and moving it to the bottom of the hill on the rear boundary, and as such the back-to-front nature of the additions was conceived.

The plan for the house draws from Japanese ideas of entry by creating a series of thresholds which progressively move you from the public sphere into the more private spaces of the home. On this steep site circulation is synonymous with moving upwards, from the ‘front door’ a set of timber stairs climb towards the sunlight into a lush, protected courtyard fitted between the house, studio and the beautifully crafted sandstone walls.

The living spaces of the central level were conceived as a continuous plane stretching from the sandstone lightwell at the northern boundary through the house and garden to the studio and balcony beyond, creating a generosity of space delightfully unexpected on a tightly constrained site. The open configuration of the plan allows our clients to supervise their two young children at play in the studio or courtyard from the house.

A solid timber island anchors the living spaces and is a locus for family activities, an arrangement complimented by the adjacent timber bench seat which enjoys the amenity of the sandstone lightwell pocketed with ferns and the light thrown into the space from above.

From the open, gregarious living spaces a delicate hanging stair disappears up to the quieter spaces of the sleeping rooms above. On this level the front bedrooms swallow up the superfluous corridor created by the disused entry and expand to claim the full width of the narrow terrace.

Sandwiched between the second bedroom and bathroom a sliver lightwell marks the division between the existing terrace form and the new addition, bringing light and breath into the home.

Inserted into the tall pitched volume of the existing roof form above the front bedrooms hangs the voluptuous, timber clad form of the loft ensuite above. Accessed via a stair concealed behind a wall of robes this intimate space sits at the highest point of the house. Skylight windows frame views over the rooftops that lead toward the city and white penny-tiles give the room a luminous glow and celebrate the curved form. An enormous stone bath for two completes the luxuriousness of this private space.

A palette of glossy black tiles, crisp white walls, and polished concrete floors offset by warm timber elements complete this robust and inviting family home.

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